Cornerback Dontae Johnson didn’t exactly lose his starting job when he was pulled from Sunday’s game in Houston. But he appears to have created an opening for little-known rookie Greg Mabin.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said that Johnson and Mabin both would get practice snaps this week in the run-up to the Titans game on Sunday. Saleh and the defensive staff worked another rookie, Ahkello Witherspoon, into games earlier this year by sending him in for a series at a time until he was ready to take over a starting role.
The team appears to be following the same pattern with Mabin, who went undrafted out of Iowa in the spring and who spent time with Tampa Bay and Buffalo before the 49ers signed him to their practice squad on Oct. 18.
“Mabin’s been doing a great job,” Saleh said. “So if you see him on the field it’s not an indictment on what Dontae Johnson’s been doing as much as it is on what Mabin’s been doing in practice and giving him a chance to go put some tape on.”
Johnson was having a difficult time with Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Sunday when he was replaced by Mabin in the third quarter. Saleh said the move never was meant to be a “benching” and that Johnson went back into the game in the fourth quarter when Witherspoon injured his knee.
Saleh said he hasn’t lost faith in Johnson, who is scheduled for free agency in March.
“The thought process behind that with Dontae was: Just give him a breather,” Saleh said. “Just relax, calm down and he’ll be fine. And the intent was to get him back in.”
Witherspoon, meanwhile, has been limited in practice the last two days with a sprained MCL in his knee. At this stage, he and nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams are the only cornerbacks who undoubtedly will be back when San Francisco’s offseason begins in April.
No Trent Brown – Tackle Trent Brown missed his second straight day of practice with a shoulder injury, increasing the chances that Zane Beadles makes a second start at right tackle.
The Titans have recorded 20 sacks in their last three games, the most ever in a three-game span for the Titans/Houston Oilers franchise, the team reported.